What do I see as the role of blogs for learning as integrated in formal learning environments?
Reading Katherine Schulten’s article about microblogging almost brought me to tears. One of the teachers, Erin Olsen, shared a reflection from one of her students, saying “that the class had given her voice.” Our voice is paramount in creating who we are, and it is one of the primary purposes of blogs for learning. Think about the impact on a student’s learning when s/he knows that their work will be posted on edublogs just like in Mr. Borges’ class. I like the quote that goes, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself” (unknown). These students have an opportunity to create who they are via blogs. Blogs also serve to enrich discussion and create a text trail for in-class conversation, exemplified by the “circle in a circle” lesson used by Erin in her classrooms. I’ve been trying to convince my colleagues to incorporate this style of learning in their classrooms, and I now have a clear conception of how to use Web 2.0 tools to make this happen.
What do I see as the role of blogs when self-initiated and informal (i.e., outside bounds of any insitution/formal classroom), especially in the context of learning?
Call me dorky, but I used to competitively play Magic: The Gathering. By competitive, I mean I read all the related articles, playtested for hours, and traveled to every major event in PA, MD, NJ, and NY – as a middle schooler. My desire to compete was self initiated and did not involve my school work at all. Though not exactly blogging, I would say that self-starting bloggers probably experience the same sense of drive and excitement that I did while cardflopping in tournaments. To further my point, the acute learning that took place was richer and more invigorating than the kind taking place in the classroom. On my own volition, I scoured every website that had an article about the metagame, which is the competitive environment and how to successfully play in it. Not all articles were quality. Similar to blogging when someone posts their ideas and supports them using links to other Internet resources, for example, I critically evaluated the relevance of the information from the gaming websites. Stephen Downes’ blog models this level of screening in his blog when citing articles from The Washington Post and The Guardian when providing background information on his post involving cloud-based services and privacy of information. In total, when internally motivated about a personally meaningful topic, learning is instantaneous and exhilarating. So are the rewards of winning that event, or in the case of the blogger, receiving that coveted feedback.
What do I see as the most important aspects to consider in using blogs for learning?
When posed with the idea of using Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms, my colleagues, who are weary of letting go of the reigns of didactic instruction, guardedly ask, “How will I maintain control and ensure that students are on task?” One of the most important aspects to consider in using blogs for learning is their proper usage. Setting clear expectations and modeling appropriate use are essential to their success in engaging students in on-task learning. Talk about the idea of a “digital footprint” and the realities of public posting on the Internet. Be present on the boards or blogs or Twitter hashtags, maintaining a presence as a way to monitor student conduct. Require students to include their names (or alias) in their posts – no anonymous posting to hold students accountable, as well as the positive side of creating a sense of ownership.
What better way to wrap up than with a podcast interview with my colleague, Pat K., who teaches students Spanish and currently pilots the social media service, My Big Campus.